Following our exciting and mind-blowingingly awesome days in Paris was an unimaginable day in the French Parliament. Instead of having a regular briefing at the Assemblée Nationale we had a guided tour through the historic building. Our tour guide was amazing and she told us the history behind the building and how it used to be the home of Louise-Françoise de Bourbon and the other part of the building was the home of her lover so she could stay out of the politics in Versailles. The Palais Bourbon was breathtaking and the artistry and attention to detail in all of decorations was very impressive. The Palace was overtaken by the future Parliament after the aristocrats left Paris in order to escape the revolution.
During our time in the first room we were informed in, we learned all about the history of the French Parliament and its roots. The French Parliament really started during the French Revolution and France’s first attempts at being a Republic. With its roots in the Council of the Five Hundred meeting in the Palais the building has since been a representation of the French legislative body. In fact, the terms left-wing and right-wing came from the French Parliament because of their seating in parliament in reference to the President of the Parliament. Already feeling like I was in an amazing place, the tour guide then showed us to the library. With paintings by Delacroix done on the ceiling in six panels. Words cannot describe the beauty of the room and all of its 700,000+ books was a wonderful sight to see and experience
After the library we were taken into the main chamber of the French Parliament and got to see where the parliament meets, discusses, and votes on legislation. The room itself was just as beautiful as the rest of the Palais complete with a painting by Raphael and remnants of the reign of Napoleon still hanging on the wall.
Then, we were given a special tour the rest of the Palais and the beautifully designed Hôtel de Lassay and its themed salons. During that portion of the tour we even got to see the desk of the president of the President and where he works on legislation, but does not sign it because of superstition placed on desk of all paperwork signed on it failing. The tour concluded with that tour but, I got the unbelievable chance with Madison and Meghan to return later that day and view the parliament’s questioning of the government.
It all started with the arrival of the President of the Parliament through the Palais to the main chamber lined with guards of the Republic to represent the unity of the people and the Republican guard. Seeing the President of the Parliament was beyond amazing and I also got to see the Minister of Education as well casually strolling by right in front of me. Little did I know who I was about to see in the chamber. We got great seats in the chamber right in the center first row on the first balcony and we got a clear view of the Prime Minister of France himself who was there to personally discuss France’s new labor reforms.
During the questioning such topics as the labor reform, Brexit, and agriculture were discussed and argued upon. The whole thing was exhilarating because of the freedom of the members of parliament who were yelling and booing at each other when somebody from the opposite party spoke or said something disagreeable to them. It was entertaining to see the members there reading a newspaper the whole time but then put it up just to yell at the other members, even though it was hard to hear what the real speaker was saying. We sat through about an hour of the questioning and then ended our day by spending a free night in the beautiful city of Paris. I feel extremely lucky to be able to attend this session and am grateful that I decided to learn French in high school so I could be able to attend it and understand what was going on. It is fascinating how the French government works and I learned a whole lot today about the parliament and how it works as compared to the US system. I was interested to see how much the EU was brought up during their discussions and it proved to me that France is an important player in the EU that takes its position seriously and uses all of its power to try and make Europe a better place.